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"Make a list of all the things you need in a partner—be sure you know what you really want.”

Does anyone else remember that "sound" advice that comes along in the early stages of singledom? You know, that encourages you to create a list of qualities, characteristics and traits your forever mate must have for you to enjoy a happy, healthy relationship. And it's just the beginning.

As you get further along in your single journey, the advice progresses and people implore you to look inward even deeper.  They'll say things like, “Find a way to love yourself more than anyone else ever could," or "Make sure you radiate all you want to attract in your life.”

But as you get older and, well, less successful in love, the once reassuring pieces of advice start to shift. The certainty and care in people’s voices is replaced with an inflection at the end of sentences. They say things, like “Oh, don’t worry about finding a man, Hunny! Live your liiiiife” to hide the fact that maybe they’re... out of suggestions. 

That's typically when you get hit with the doozy: “Are you too picky?” and comments like, “You’re just worried about the wrong things,” or even advice like “What’s meant for you is meant for you. Throw out your list!”

For me, this is whack advice. Don’t throw out your list.  

Trust and believe, I know God has already worked it out; however, “throw out your list” is a far cry from the advice of my late 20s when creating a “list” and, more importantly, being specific was all the rage. When I tell you, I drove myself nuts trying to find every adjective in the book to describe the perfect man for me.

God-fearing? Trustworthy? Loyal? Ambitious? The list went on and on.

When I finally settled on all 54 things on my list, I pulled out a gold piece of craft paper and a Sharpie. I wrote them down and attached the final masterpiece to my vision board. 

Here I am, some five years later, about 75% of that same vision board has manifested, and now people want me to throw out my list? My requirements? All of my hard work identifying what makes me tick, what makes me thrive, what makes me, me?  The journey of identifying my perfect mate has been real work, and I’m not ready to toss it out.  

Here's why.

There was some value in the advice given to me years ago. It may have been hidden and focused on the hunt but one thing is clear: you need to know who you are before you know what you want. I’m not sure about you, but I am growing, and as I do, my list evolves with me. What I have realized is that my list is an ongoing exercise —it's part of my journey and destination..  

Last year, I read a dating book called The Game of Desire, by Shan Boodram, and I worked my list into a job list-ing. Shan invented this method and it requires you to “Think of yourself as a multibillion-dollar corporation. You, of course, are the CEO.” You are to create a job listing that reflects the role open in your life, the description of the role, and the required qualifications, to interview and land the gig. She asks you to consider things like the job title, job location/term, requirements, skills of interest, etc.

It was eye-opening, but more importantly, it taught me about the “role” my partner has to play in my life. I actually don’t need a lover. I need a partner, and dare I say, I could totally do a long-distance relationship—the independence in me kind of likes the freedom.

As Shan mentions, “Creating the job listing makes it clear who qualifies, who doesn’t, and who seems like a decent fit to work in maintenance, or perhaps even as an intern. The clearer you can be about what qualities make up the right candidates, the fewer opportunities the wrong ones will have to waste your time.”

At the top of this year, I flipped my list into the most practical analogy—a slice of pizza. The Pizza Method by Spicy Mari says that if you put five traits into three critical categories, you will better attract your purpose mate. Each category makes up a piece of the pizza.

Crust: What makes a good person?

Sauce: How do you like to be treated?

Toppings: What makes you sexually attracted to them?

I learned that most of us look for a potential partner backward… 

Am I sexually attracted to him? Toppings. 

Does he treat me well? Sauce. 

Is he a good person? Crust. 

But that’s not how we build a pizza, is it?

This exercise helped me quickly identify potential candidates that hit or don’t hit the shortlist. If he lacks dedication, ambition, or isn’t spiritually centered, there’s no reason to find out if we are compatible. We’re not. It’s kind of mind-boggling to think I was entertaining men that could never align with my standards, but that’s another lesson pulled from this “list” exercise.

Whether it’s the Pizza Method by Spicy Life, the job listing by Shan Boodram, or a good ol’ fashioned checklist, I’d argue some sort of list is still the way to go.  Have you ever gone to the grocery store without a list? Or worse, hungry? You end up impulsively grabbing items and leaving with a cart piled full of stuff you didn’t really need. Elena Murzello, who wrote the book The Love List, notes that "Without a list, you base your purchases on how hungry you are and end up grabbing random items you don’t need, like pretzel-covered peanut-butter snacks.  The reevaluation begins when you stare at your full grocery cart as you wait in line and realize that you don’t really need half the stuff that you put in your cart. More often than not, you forget the one thing you went shopping for in the first place because it wasn’t so apparent when you were browsing the shelves."

I started this journey casting a net of characteristics as wide as the Atlantic ocean. Now, I can identify him as easily as I can pick out my favorite slice of pizza. Don’t be that woman who had a 43-point list that stunned Steve Harvey and Oprah, but then again, don’t throw out your list, Queen. Filter it. 

I'm not buying into a world where men like Kevin Samuels are trying to gather women and their expectations.  I won’t reduce, reimagine, or reconstruct my requirements. You think I stayed single all this time to settle?

For me, it’s a no.

When I’m standing across from my perfect on my wedding day, I’ll look out to the crowd of our loved ones and wink, knowing my list manifested.

Ashley Weatherspoon is the founder of Dear Young Queen, an empowerment platform for women. Follow her @dearyoungqueen.